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that door, a pope chosen in the mysterious ritual known as the conclave. abc's david wright tells us about the ancient vote to come. >> reporter: before the cardinals file into the sistine chapel and lock the doors behind them, technicians will have pulled up the floorboards to install cell phone jamming devices. violating the secrecy is punishable by excommunication. >> it's a way of ensuring that the voice that's speaking to the cardinals during the conclave belongs to the holy spirit and to no one else. >> reporter: no one knows how long it will take. the shortest conclave lasted just a few hours. the longest? nearly three years. in fact, that's why they started locking the doors. in the middle ages, during the plague years, a conclave meeting in the town of viterbo took so long, frustrated villagers eventually locked the cardinals in to hurry them up. it didn't work, so they tried to starve them out. that didn't work. so, they exposed them to the elements, tearing the roof off the building to let the holy spirit in. not going to happen in the sistine chapel, where the ceiling is michel
his own legacy? >> well, this is the tremendous question that lies before us. i mean, there is no job description for a retired pope. >> reporter: so, benedict remains pope until the end of the month. the cardinals have to assemble here for a conclave to elect his successor within 20 days. that takes us to mid-march. which means that a billion catholics around the world should have a new pope by easter. diane? >> all right, jeffrey, thank you. and, of course, that new pope will have to face the call for change, from many people in the american catholic church. there are 77.7 million catholics here in the united states. nearly 1 in 4 of us is catholic. and rhode island, new jersey and massachusetts still have the highest concentration of catholics. but in sheer numbers, the biggest growth is among hispanics. and abc's cecilia vega spent the day gathering american reaction from all over. cecilia? >> reporter: diane, good evening. we're here at st. mary's cathedral in san francisco and as you said, we've been speaking with catholics all day long. and i will tell you, boy, the surprise do
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